Great Notion Collaboration, Part Deux!
One of the great things about this industry — aside from all the awesome beer — is that we get to collaborate with awesome people from around the country.
Last year, during hops selection, we stopped by Great Notion in Portland, Oregon, to brew up a Strawberry Salt Water Taffy IPA called Strawberry Taffy.
This year, they’ve returned the favor, with owner James Dugan stopping by our Production Facility with his brother Matt to help brew our batch of Strawberry Taffy, due to hit taps and cans by the end of the month.
We sat down with the both of them to get the lowdown on this collaboration.
After a 10-minute conversation about Phish, the conversation turned to the Dugans’ familiarity with the area. Originally from outside of Philadelphia, James’s parents have a house in West Cape May, and they frequently vacationed here.
“We still come down here every summer,” he said. “It’s a family tradition. My kids are probably at the beach right now. They love it.”
In fact, he’s got to head back to Portland, but the kids are staying with the grandparents for another nine or ten days.
It was James’s brother Matt, an AP chemistry teacher at Boston Public, who suggested the collaboration.
“We’d talked about it,” Matt said. “I told him that the next time he was down he should check out Cape May Brewing Company.”
“Last summer, I was sitting in the living room with my feet up drinking an Anniversary Ale 7.0,” he said. “I was drinking the shit out of it. Buying lots of it from Colliers. My brother was like, ‘You should hit them up, dude! See if they want to brew a beer together.’
“I kind of laughed it off.”
“But the next day, it sort of came back to me, and I thought, ‘I would love to do a collab with Cape May Brewing,’” he said. “It would be so cool.”
So, James hit us up through our website. Social Media and Design Alchemist Courtney Rosenberg got the email, forwarded it to Ryan and Innovation Director Brian Hink, who took the reins.
“I saw Great Notion and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’” Brian said. “‘Great Notion wants to collaborate with us?!?’ That’s a feather-in-the-cap moment right there. I had a little geek-out moment on that.”
Brian had been introduced to them by his brother in Denver the last time he was at GABF, in 2017.
“We tried the Double Stack, the breakfast stout with gobs of maple syrup, which blew me away,” he said, “and I tried their Blueberry Muffin, a blueberry, pastry, Berliner Weisse. Everyone was mixing them together, and you got your blueberry pancakes. Out of the hundreds of beers I tried in those few days, they definitely stood out.”
“Thanks, Brian,” James said.
“So, once I got the email, I said, ‘I’ll definitely take care of this,’” Brian laughed.
The timing really couldn’t have been any better, as we were on our way to hops selection in the Yakima Valley within a few weeks.
“I was like, ‘As a matter of fact….’”
We had just enough time to spitball a few ideas and figure out exactly what we wanted to do, eventually deciding on a Strawberry Salt Water Taffy IPA.
“I’m pretty sure that no one in Portland knows what Salt Water Taffy is,” James said. “People know what taffy is, though. I think everyone knows what taffy is. When someone thinks of strawberry taffy, they think of this gooey, strawberry substance. I think it’s a pretty appealing image.”
“It’s fun,” Matt said.
“If you think about the shore, going to the beach,” Brian said. “It’s fun. You wanna have that lighthearted, fun family time.”
Regardless of Portlanders unfamiliarity with Salt Water Taffy, the beer was really well-received. The first batch was brewed at Great Notion’s Brewpub on a seven-barrel system.
“I thought it was awesome,” James said.
Apparently, we’d received some crowlers of Strawberry Taffy from Great Notion; however, they never crossed the desk of the staff of Straight to the Pint. Apparently.
“We drank ‘em up pretty quick,” Brian said. “They were top-notch.”
“You snooze you lose!” James said. “But I really liked it a lot. And that’s why it was such a fun idea to make it again. Part of the reason was because we know it’s such a great beer. A really killer recipe.”
Great Notion has another batch of Strawberry Taffy that releases this Saturday, but you’d have to be in Oregon to grab a can.
Since we’re both canning this brew, we decided to collaborate on label designs, as well. So, we got our design team in touch with their design team, and each of them came up with two pretty cool labels.
“We had these two different options to choose from,” Brian said. “We kind of liked ours a little better and they kind of liked theirs a little better, so we said, ‘How about Great Notion brews it again, too, and you can use your label?’”
“It’s amazing, having seen the original sketches, to see how close these final versions really are,” Brian said.
Ultimately, this collaboration has come together really very fluidly.
“A big part of it is based on mutual respect,” James said. “I think that’s kind of the foundation of it. And really enjoying each other’s beers.”
James says that most of the collaborations that they currently do are with people that they’ve met.
“It just feels more comfortable for me,” he said. “We do so many events and traveling that we run into so many people and meet so many people, it feels more natural to collaborate once we’ve met.”
“And that’s kind of how this came about,” Brian said. “We met up at Extreme Beer Fest in Boston back in February. I looked over the list of who was there and saw Great Notion, and I reached out.”
They got together over the weekend in Boston, and Brian invited them to brew Strawberry Taffy at our shop, and they took us up on it.
“It’s been very natural,” James said. “Brian and I get along really well, and you guys make great beer. It’s really fun to hang out with you guys.”
“You’re very welcoming,” Matt added.
Strawberry Taffy releases again in Portland on Saturday, but will release from our Tasting Room at the end of the month. Stay tuned for details!